Friendship is a relationship of trust and it does not come easily. It’s hard work. It’s breaking walls of distrust and building new walls of trust; it’s a personal relationship of mutual attraction. I have encountered moments when I worked so hard for a friendship, invested plenty of time but in the end, it never work out, for whatever reason, but I told myself it wasn’t time wasted. Friend ship is arrived at when genuinely interested parties invest hours of commitment, share moments of happiness and possibly grief together, until they fuse to each other. Friendship is about giving and taking, it’s a mutual fellowship, the power word in friendship is mutual – or what I call subsets in the paragraphs preceding – the moment this changes, the friendship meter drops.
In the present decade, social sites have shot up in usage and people spend hours without end, hooking up with virtual friends. In the confines of our definition of friendship, virtual friendship fits perfectly – even though it remains just that – virtual. Whichever way you look at friendship, friendship is defined by how many ‘interest subsets’ you share, which means the more you share, the closer the friendship. It also means that friendship is dynamic –it evolves and as you move to a different social location, your friendship ‘sets’ shifts as well, losing some and gaining others. It is like a game of chess. You keep moving the pieces depending on what you want to gain and sacrificing the pieces with lesser value; there are friends you would never sacrifice, they are far more valuable than anything you can think, but there are others you would sacrifice in a wink.
I have categorized friendship into three classes; the first class comprises close friends. Friendship experts suggest the number of friends in this class as not being more than six. Friends in this class play a significant role in your life and you consult with them on almost anything. Their names are in your cell phones and the most frequently called number. You maintain a mutual respect and have allowed each other into that closet—where only the few and trusted are allowed; they are regulars in your home and almost in every event in your life either as participants or observers. They have been there for you as guidance counselors in your career, general interests, faith and belief, ideologies, and so on. They are few and they are treasured.
These friends are your center of influence, your powerhouse. They will be with you come rain come shine, and give you a shoulder to cry and encourage you “it will be okay, in the morning”; they may not understand your pain but they will sit with you, until the dawn. These are the true friends. Walter Winchell says, “a real friend is one who walks in, when the rest of the world walks out.” When others give up on you, a true friend hangs up with you and encourages you. This type of friends stays with you longest and the only thing that will separate your friendship maybe perhaps only death. These are the friends the bible says in proverbs 18:24 “sticks closer than a brother” and are the kind of friends you want to have; friends who will not shy away to warn you or share light moments with you; friends who will not shy away from standing with you regardless of what you have done . They are true friends, the Nathans, who are not afraid to confront you when you have done wrong. In the chess game, this class of friends comprises the King, Queen, and probably the rooks. They are few in number, but they are committed.
Then there is what I call the second class of friends that comprises friends who don’t have as much influence in your life but occasionally play key roles positively or negatively. Changes in geographical locale or social commitments often takes away interactions and may relegate close friends friendship to a second class. Friends in this class often (not always) come from the first class due to factors aforementioned, while other emerging friends are promoted from “lower” classes. Social interaction in this class is infrequent and the level of influence is low. This class, second class, is fictitious and attracts players who maneuvered their way to the first class. They are people you may have known for a time; people who keep showing up and disappearing that it’s almost impossible to determine where they are in your life. Most often, they are acquaintances promoted from the third class but their character and integrity is unable to sustain them at that level so they create their own level. These types of friends show up in time of need and once their needs are met, they move away. They do not show any emotions, are unattached, unapologetic, and always expecting something from you, else they melt away. In one instance, they are excited and hyped with you and in the next, they almost don’t know you –like a balloon that suddenly loses air. This class of friends is a dangerous lot; they are the backstabbers who would easily sell you to the Ishmaelite’s, so you don’t prosper beyond them. They push their way through to be seen as important, are sneaky in their talk, and unless you have learned to identify them, you will always fall to their tricks; they slyly enter into your life, but never let you into theirs. They are shrouded in mystery – Beware of such.
The problem with this type of people is they don’t retain confidentiality and if you share personal information with them, you soon hear it broadcast in all local stations before dawn. Such people have a very friendly demeanor, they will do anything for you at the span of the moment, they will call you day and night when they want something from you but when they get it, they are gone – like the wind. These are not real friends; they are pretentious people who pop in and out of your life at will. Show them the door – you don’t need them. Refuse to entertain or listen to their juicy stories (they always seem to know what is happening where). The more you want to know, the more you get into their trap. They are most annoying and worthless form of “friends.”
Finally, there is the third class of friendship. Contrary to what you may be thinking right now, while this class may appear as the lowest, they are more reliable than the second class. In this class, there are fewer “subsets” and as such have very little in common. The line between friendship in this class and acquaintances is very fine. Friends from this class come either from the first or second classes or as new and emerging acquaintances entering one’s life. Although you may have nothing much in common, when you meet you exchange genuine pleasantries but that is as far as it goes. You don’t talk ill of each other, you don’t critic each other – you are just not close. You don’t go out of your way to call them or find out what is going on in their lives, nor do they in turn reach out to you as well. This type of friends makes the most of your friendship population – there is no firm commitment, but this friendship can last forever, because you never cross each others path. Since these friends are committed elsewhere, they most often will stand with you when you need them to.
In my opinion, the number of interest subsets determines the level of a friendship. Unfortunately, these subsets change with time and as people mature in their different ways, interests change as well. There is therefore nothing wrong in a friend adapting to other interest for the sake of his/her family, career or other personal choices. When this happens, their friendship is relegated to the next lower level –and that’s okay.
So which of your friends falls in the classes above? Do you find like you have been spending time with the wrong class of friends and expecting unrealistic results? Mine is to caution you not to hang on to meaningless friendships, specifically the fictitious second class. In Madea’s words always look for the sign, when “the leaves have fallen,” and that will be the cue for you to move on. If friends, from whichever class chose to go, don’t hold them back, let them go. Their leaving will give you an opportunity to make new friends and an opportunity to re-classify your friends and spend time with those that add value to your life. But reach out to those you value, inculcate trust and be genuinely open to share in their interests and lives, peradventure they will move to the close friends class.